, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 20 – Two Cabinet Secretaries have differed over claims that there are traces of mercury in the contraband sugar impounded recently by police.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi had announced that the sugar had mercury while quoting tests from the Government Chemist, but the claims were refuted Wednesday, by his Industrialization counterpart, Adan Mohammed.
The sugar – mainly from Brazil – was seized in Eastleigh estate in Nairobi and suspects arrested.
Adan was speaking while answering questions from MPs in the Trade and Investment committee, chaired by Kanini Kega.
He has challenged anyone with evidence of mercury in contraband sugar to present it to the Kenya Bureau of Standards.
“Tests carried out by KEBS did not find any form of toxic metal as claimed. I however call on anyone with contrary information to alert the authorities,” Mohammed told the Trade Committee which was meeting at a city hotel to discuss the amendments to the anti-counterfeit laws.
It now remains unclear whether Kenyans have been consuming contaminated products or not.
The Interior CS made the shocking revelations on June 13.
It is during the briefing at the DCI that Matiangi said he was willing to pay the ultimate price, but clear the menace.
“I am not under any illusion that we engaged in a very serious war. A war that could mean anything; it could mean even the lives of these officers and some of us,” Matiangi told reporters when Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti displayed tones of the sugar imported illegally from Brazil.
“It is a complex war”, the CS said, “that may not spare the detectives involved in the ongoing crackdown.”He revealed how detectives investigating the matter have been receiving telephone calls from unnamed individuals, with unspecified warnings if they do not stop or release the impounded sugar.
“The people who gave up their lives for this country to be independent did not lose their blood in vein so that we get ourselves where we are today, where we have people in our midst who are selling poison and sabotaging our economy,” Matiangi said, and assured security agents of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s support in their work.
The first consignment nabbed in Eastleigh had 1,474 bags (50kgs) of sugar, clearly indicated not suitable for direct human consumption.
“Some of these impurities found in the sugar can be cancerous,” Matiangi said and vowed not to be shaken.
“I want to be frank with the people of Kenya that we have to change the way we live. We are not going to be polite about this,” he said of what he termed as “a white-collar job.”
Already, 3 retailers have been arrested in Eastleigh and arraigned in court.
But according to a senior detective involved in the ongoing crackdown, the real sugar barons are people highly networked, some within the agencies supposed to stop the menace like the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), Kenya Revenue Authority and police at the country entry points and so on.
Those behind the illicit trade are said to be muzzling local manufacturers and are involved in tax evasion besides exposing citizens to health risks and national security threats attributed to the black market.